Mayor election and the importance of words | Bob Roegner

How important are words?

We have dictionaries, thesauruses and numerous books on the proper use of words. We had English teachers to ensure that we would always get our words just right.

So we know words have value and meaning in our society. Apparently, they have meaning and value in how Federal Way’s candidates for mayor establish their themes. To those of us not running for mayor, words can also tickle our funny bone a little bit.

A behind the scenes dust-up recently reminded us of both. How does the phrase “retain Mayor Kochmar” strike you? As simple as that phrase is, it has caused all kinds of consternation and differing points of view.

“Retain” is defined as “to keep.” Linda Kochmar’s supporters believe that since Kochmar is the current mayor, it is perfectly appropriate to use that term. Kochmar, not wanting to run afoul of the Public Disclosure Commission, checked with the PDC and was told that using “retain” was OK.

However, some supporters of other candidates thought the word was misleading, since Kochmar has not been the mayor in a strong mayor system, which is the office everyone is running for.

As a voter, you might think the whole discussion borders on laughter, but the candidates may not share your opinion.

Early this year, many members of the city council were considering running for mayor in the strong mayor election. At least some of our council members voted for Kochmar as mayor in the current system because they didn’t think either she or Dini Duclos, who is deputy mayor, would run for mayor. Did Kochmar outmaneuver them? Probably. Because politically, having the mayor title means a lot, and some believe it gives you an advantage.

Let’s take this issue to its logical and somewhat whimsical conclusion. If Kochmar can use retain, then can candidate Skip Priest use “return Priest as mayor” on his signs? Priest was on the council several years ago and served as mayor. Or, since candidate Mike Park was appointed mayor twice, could he use “return, return Park as mayor?”

Or since they were all technically “elected” mayor by the council, could one be bold enough to say “re-elect?” Probably not. The PDC might have issue with that.

Further, what does candidate Jim Ferrell do? He has never been mayor, but he did serve as deputy mayor from 2006-2008.

Since deputy mayor is the number two position, could Ferrell use “promote former Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell to mayor?” Maybe not — that is a little long.

All of you who are rolling your eyes at this level of behind the scenes political intrigue, or if you think this is just plain silliness, keep in mind: The candidates all expect this to be a very close race. Could using a title make a difference? It probably won’t, but some of the candidates think it will.

Personally, I look forward to more humor in the race and will tell you about it.

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